Welcome to Dreamland

Yesterday, I watched the musical, Miss Saigon, at the Academy of the Performing Arts. 

Miss Saigon is a critically acclaimed musical. It’s love story about an American G.I. soldier, Chris Scott and a Vietnamese Bargirl, Kim. The musical is centered around the corruption of the Communist regime, the plight of the Vietnamese people, and the perpetual love between Chris and Kim.

The desperate Vietnamese trying to get aboard the helicopter leaving Vietnam Photo by Michelle Cronk, Academy of the Performing Arts

I don’t want to give any spoilers, but bring tissues if you ever have an opportunity to see it live.

I left the musical feeling legitimately depressed and moved. I’ve known the story of the Vietnamese people during the Vietnam war, for my parents come from that era. I know the struggle, the atrocities. But, somehow, I was so affected. I felt attached to these characters, their story, their desires and their hearts.

Kim and Ellen fight over Chris Photo by Michelle Cronk, Academy of the Performing Arts

Last year, I was a keyboard player in the musical, Shrek, for the Academy of the Performing Arts (APA). I felt happy after I Shrek. There was a joy that surmounted in my soul. My spirit felt alive.

This year, after the spring musical for APA,  I felt terrible.

I didn’t just feel terrible because the musical was so sad. I felt regret.

I felt regret because I wasn’t a part of the wonderful production. Instead, I dropped out.

You see, I’ve been a part of APA ever since last year. I’ve played in the orchestra in our 2 shows, Sounds of the Season, and Fanfare, and the Musical Theater production, Shrek: The Musical.

I joined the pit orchestra for Shrek not knowing any of the resilience and mental strength that I had to put myself through. I endured long practices, stressful rehearsals, and not to mention, I lost an extreme amount of sleep. During “Hell Week,” or “Tech Week,” (as it is politely referred to), I was at the theater from 6-11, every school night.

I wanted to scream from the stress of having to learn endless pages of music. I wanted to scream from the pressure of performing to a sold out auditorium every night.

But, I loved it. I loved the anxiety, the rush of performing. I made so many friends in the orchestra. I fell in love with the Orchestral Music. I loved to dress up every night for the performance.

The Shrek “Ogre”stra

Doing Shrek the Musical was such a rewarding experience, one that I truly commend my piano playing skills to.

After Shrek, I promised myself that I wouldn’t do a musical again because it was too much work. I finished the end of the term in APA strong, joining a performing group over the summer to further my performance record.

And then during the summer, I found out that Miss Saigon would be the Spring Musical for next year.

So I changed my mind. Of course I would play in Miss Saigon. Not only was it a cultural obligation, but it was an amazing musical, 3 hours of dramatic music!

I was so excited to be in Miss Saigon. I verbally swore myself to it at the beginning of the year.

Then came February and I was dying from stress from my course load and SAT. Miss Saigon auditions were posted during that time. My orchestra director warned that Miss Saigon is a full commitment, not lagging on schedule like we did last year, and rehearsals were bound to be intense.

But I auditioned in anyway. And I got in! I was adamant about playing in it.

Come a few weeks later, and I dropped out of Miss Saigon. I told myself that there would be many more musicals in my future, but only a couple chances to take my SAT.

I didn’t regret it at all, of course when I made the decision.

I regretted it when I saw the beauty, the talent, the wonder of the musical. I regretted it when for the first time, an APA musical was being advertised at my school. (APA is not affiliated to my campus, but is related to the school district overall) I regretted it when I saw the personal affect it had on my heart. And I regretted it when I sat back in those red plush chairs in the auditorium, thinking “This is the first time that I was not part of the production, but part of the audience.”

Waiting in my seat for Miss Saigon
Waiting in my seat for Miss Saigon

My heart dropped when I saw the orchestra members, my friends, dressed in suits and black dresses, elegantly walking to their seats. I knew the procedure; the violins would tune and the piano players would turn on their amps and the brass instruments readied their mouthpieces. I anticipated the familiar voice of the musical theater director to boom across the auditorium, yelling “Welcome!!!!”

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Backstage at Miss Saigon
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Friends that I made from Shrek

This experience served a lesson that reminded me that the future is still a mystery. I cannot predict nor anticipate what is going to come next month, next week, the next day, or even the next minute. Just last year, I swore that I wouldn’t be part of a musical. But of course, I changed my mind, and last September I pictured that during this time of the year, I would be part of Miss Saigon.

But I’m not. And the only thing I can do is accept what’s happened and move on. I won’t say anything about doing a musical next year, because as you can see, nothing is certain. What I can do is say,

“Welcome to Dreamland,” as the Engineer belted in Miss Saigon. Because you see, life is but a dream. And no one can control dreams. A person can only live in it, and let it take its course.

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